Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

A thirsty Middle East

<img alt=“Dry lands.jpg” align=right src=“http://blogs.nature.com/houseofwisdom/images/Dry%20lands.jpg” width=“280” height=“175” />

According to the most detailed water forecast of the Middle East, by 2050 population growth could push the region into a water crisis, according to an article published last week in Nature Climate Change.

The Middle East is already mostly covered by vast deserts and many regions have less than 10 cm of rainfall a year. This strains the few fresh water resources in the region. The richer Gulf States can build expensive water desalination centres but many other countries, such as the poorer Yemen, cannot afford to depend on desalination to supply regular water.

In fact, Yemen is poised to be the first country in the world to run out of fresh water resources. They are depending mainly on underground water and overusing it for drinking and agriculture. Complete loss of fresh water can lead to substantial changes in the country’s socioeconomic realities.

According to the Nature Climate Change article, the researchers predict that Jordan, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories will see rainfall at the end of the century fall 20% lower than what was seen between the 1960’s and 1990’s. This comes with an expected increase of at least 50% in populations.

Right now, Jordanians get drinking water delivered to their homes three days a week only due to limited resources. This could get worse in the following years.

In other places, rising sea level due to climate change is causing salination of underground water. For example, many farmers in the lowlands of the Delta region of the NiIe River in Egypt cannot depend on underground water for agriculture anymore because it is too salty.

Researchers have often overplayed and at other times downplayed the scenario of water wars in the 21st century. If it turns out to be true, however, then this particular region of the world may be one of the first to endure it.

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